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Academics' Understanding of Authentic Assessment

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This paper reports on a project undertaken at The Open University which set out to explore academics’ notion and practice of authentic assessment through the exploration of the following research objectives:
1. To understand what is meant by authentic assessment in the literature by examining a set of examples of authentic assessments.
2. To construct a questionnaire which could be used by Open University academics to explore their understanding of authentic assessment.
3. To investigate through means of a questionnaire the types of assessment academics were currently undertaking and whether they fitted into a broad definition of authentic assessment.
The findings from the electronic survey suggest that Open University academics are on the way to designing meaningful assessments for their students. Although many of the courses were employing assessment tasks that could be considered as ‘authentic’, only 25% of the academics had heard of the terms ‘authentic learning’ and ‘authentic assessment’, which is a low response compared with ‘learning design’. However, there has been a well publicised Learning Design initiative taking place across the University.

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Academics' Understanding of Authentic Assessment

  1. 1. Academics’ Understanding of Authentic Assessment Denise Whitelock & Simon Cross Institute of Educational Technology The Open University [email_address] [email_address]
  2. 2. Outline 1 Introducing Authentic Assessment Results Response rates Defining the survey items Discussion Project overview
  3. 3. Project objectives <ul><li>To understand what is meant by authentic assessment in the literature by examining a set of examples of authentic assessments. </li></ul><ul><li>To construct a questionnaire which could be used by Open University academics to explore their understanding of authentic assessment. </li></ul><ul><li>To investigate through means of a questionnaire, the types of assessment academics were currently undertaking and whether they fitted into, through means of a questionnaire, a broad definition of authentic assessment. </li></ul>1
  4. 4. Familiar terms? 1 Terms probed by questionnaire % responses Alternative assessment 37 Authentic assessment 24 Feed-forward 59 Authentic learning 26 Learning Design 55
  5. 5. Authentic assessment <ul><li>Wiggins, 1993 – ‘[the extent to which] a student experiences questions and tasks under constraints as they typically and “naturally” occur, with access to the tools that are usually available for solving such problems.’ </li></ul><ul><li>Synonym for performance assessment (Hart, 1994; Torrance, 1995) </li></ul><ul><li>Realistic value of the task and context (Herrington & Herrington, 1998) </li></ul><ul><li>Authentic to what? </li></ul><ul><li>Criterion situation (Gulikers, Bastiaens & Kirschner, 2008) </li></ul>1
  6. 6. 5 dimensions of authenticity <ul><li>Task </li></ul><ul><li>Physical context </li></ul><ul><li>Social context </li></ul><ul><li>The form containing multiple context of learning </li></ul><ul><li>Criteria based on criteria used in professional practice </li></ul>1 (Gulikers et al)
  7. 7. Issues <ul><li>Assessment is itself inauthentic </li></ul><ul><li>Reliability </li></ul><ul><li>Student perceptions </li></ul><ul><li>Student treat it as authentic </li></ul><ul><li>Cost/time </li></ul><ul><li>Empirical research </li></ul><ul><li>Favours certain disciplines </li></ul>1
  8. 8. Developing survey items <ul><li>Authentic intellectual work </li></ul><ul><li>Authentic situations </li></ul><ul><li>Authentic measurement and criteria </li></ul><ul><li>Authentic competence or performance </li></ul><ul><li>Authentic learning experience </li></ul><ul><li>Authentic personal trajectories </li></ul><ul><li>Authentic audiences </li></ul><ul><li>Authentic design structures </li></ul>1
  9. 9. Items 1
  10. 10. Items 1
  11. 11. Response rate 1 CAU Number of Responses Social Sciences 7 Maths, Computing & Technology 39 Science 24 Faculty of Education & Language Studies 6 Health & Social Care 7 OU Business School 10 Institute of Educational Technology 8 Total 102
  12. 12. Results <ul><li>Key research questions </li></ul><ul><li>What aspects of authenticity in assessment are important to academics? </li></ul><ul><li>How successful do academics feel they have been in delivering on factors associated with authentic assessment? </li></ul><ul><li>What types of technologies and pedagogies are being used? </li></ul>1
  13. 13. 1. Perceived importance <ul><li>18 items </li></ul><ul><li>‘ It is probable that your subject area adopts an approach to assessment that may differ from other disciplines. Some considerations or expectations about assessment may be more, or less, important than others. When assessing students in your subject area, how important is it that the following should be included?’ </li></ul>1
  14. 14. Results 1 16 17 28 33 Marking criteria that relate specifically to competences and practice 1 16 46 33 Assessment tasks that students enjoy 2 8 44 39 Complex assessment tasks that require use of multiple skills and knowledge 3 16 34 42 Problem tasks that are like those encountered by practitioners or experts in the field 4 18 34 44 Demonstration and use of judgement 1 13 33 46 A range of assessment tasks rather than just the traditional ones 7 6 30 52 Resources taken specifically from real-world case studies or research 5 3 19 74 Tasks that are fully aligned with learning outcomes or objectives 4 3 19 75 Tasks that students find meaningful Not at all important Slightly important Quite important Very important % responding  
  15. 15. Results 1 46 33 14 2 Simulations of role-play or scenarios 36 31 14 10 Grading of assessment by those who, in a relevant real-world situation, would do so 37 28 17 10 Student involvement in the negotiation of the assessment task 43 17 18 10 Examination takes place in real world settings/places 19 33 29 13 Collaboration that is similar to that experienced by practitioners or experts in the field 20 28 23 23 Course work or reflective logs 9 27 31 25 A test of how well the student thinks like a practitioner (is ‘in-tune’ with the disciplinary mind) 8 24 33 30 Processes and methods that are similar to those used by practitioners or experts in the field 5 17 40 31 A sustainable life-long approach to learning Not at all important Slightly important Quite important Very important % responding  
  16. 16. 2. Successful use 1
  17. 17. 3. Types used 1
  18. 18. Familiar terms 1 Terms probed by questionnaire % responses Alternative assessment 37 Authentic assessment 24 Feed-forward 59 Authentic learning 26 Learning Design 55
  19. 19. Discussion 1 <ul><li>Achieving something ‘meaningful’ </li></ul><ul><li>Real world assessment importance </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Real experiences’ of collaboration </li></ul><ul><li>Awareness and understanding </li></ul>[email_address] [email_address]

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